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East Boston


Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > East Boston

Learn more about your ancestor's neighborhood through the timeline, find more information in the Further Reading section, or use the links to experience life in that community today.

Timeline

  • 1620: The five islands that comprise what is today East Boston (Noddle's, Hog/Breed's, Governor's, Apple, and Bird) are granted to Plymouth by King James I of England.
  • 1622: The Plymouth Council grants Noddle's Island to Captain Robert Gorges.
  • 1629: Sir William Brereton receives Noddle's and Hog/Breed's islands from John Gorges.
  • 1632: Governor's Island is granted to John Winthrop.
  • 1633: Samuel Maverick, Episcopalian and Royalist, acquires Noddle's Island and becomes the first recorded resident. The island is primarily used for grazing livestock. Samuel Maverick may be the earliest slave holder in Massachusetts. He purchased several natives of Tortugas in 1638. Maverick is an early champion of religious tolerance for which he is fined and imprisoned.
  • 1636: Noddle's Island is claimed by Boston.
  • 1670: Noddle's Island is purchased by Samuel Shrimpton. He allows persecuted Baptists to worship on the island (1665-1679).
  • 1700: Several salt works are opened in East Boston.
  • 1764: Robert Temple's Noddle's Island mansion is used as an inoculating station during a smallpox epidemic.
  • 1775: Colonel Stark has a skirmish with British soldiers on Noddle's Island. Later in the year, British war ships fire on colonists while the latter remove all livestock and food from the islands to deprive British troops of supplies. The first naval battle of the Revolution, the Battle of Chelsea Creek, is fought off of Noddle's Island. This United States victory occurred on May 27.
  • 1796: A ferry runs from Boston to Noddle's Island.
  • 1808: The United States government acquired Governor's Island from the Winthrop family, who had owned it since 1632.
  • 1814: Fort Strong, designed by Loammi Baldwin, is completed on Noddle's Island.
  • 1815-1833: Apple Island is privately owned.
  • 1814: Noddle Island has only eight residents.
  • 1833: General William H. Summer acquires Noddle's Island and with the help of Samuel Lewis (Director of the East Boston Company), and S.P. Fuller (surveyor for Boston), he develops East Boston into one of the first planned communities in the city under the hand of his East Boston Company (originally the North Boston Company). Smith's and Belmont Hills are leveled and filling begins in East Boston. Two ferries, Maverick and East Boston, run from Rowe's Wharf to Maverick Square. Guy Haynes builds the first house in East Boston on Webster and Cottage Streets.
  • 1834: Chelsea Street Bridge is built and the East Boston Sugar Refinery is the first business in East Boston.
  • 1835: The elegant eighty-room Maverick House Hotel at Maverick Square helps promote East Boston as a resort area of 607 permanent residents, 10 wharves, and 50 private homes. There is regular ferry service begins between Lewis Street and Boston.
  • 1836: The Eastern Railroad runs from Boston to Salem and the first school opens on Meridien Street in a building owned by the Malleable Iron Company.
  • 1837: Maverick Congregational Church is constructed on Maverick Street, becoming the first church in East Boston. It later becomes St. Nicholas' Catholic Church. The census records 1,000 residents in East Boston.
  • 1840: The Cunard line, founded by Sir Samuel Cunard (1787-1865) of London builds a pier in East Boston. The Cunard line carries many of the Irish immigrants who settled in East Boston. The first Cunard ship to arrive in Boston is the Unicorn which makes the transatlantic voyage in 16 days.
  • 1841: Painter William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) moved to East Boston from Portland, Maine and lived on Trenton Street in Eagle Hill.
  • 1842: The Methodist Episcopal Bethel is founded on Meridien and Decantur Streets.
  • 1844: Donald McKay's (1810-1880) shipyard opens on Border Street. Enoch Train (1801-1868) begins the White Diamond Line primarily using McKay's ships. The White Diamond Line becomes a fierce competitor of the Cunard line on the merchant route from Liverpool to Boston. Irish immigrants establish the Church of St. Nicholas, the first Catholic Church in East Boston.
  • 1851: McKay's clipper ship, the Flying Cloud, owned by Enoch Train and Captained by Josiah Perkins Cressy, sets a new record by sailing from New York to San Francisco in 89 days. McKay becomes world famous for his ships.
  • 1845: The census describes 5,310 people in East Boston and the Harbor Islands.
  • 1853: The People's Ferry becomes the second ferry line to connect Boston and East Boston.
  • 1854: The People's Ferry becomes the second ferry line to Boston. The First Presbyterian Church is established.
  • 1855: According to the Massachusetts State Census, 23% of East Boston residents are from Ireland. They settle in the Jeffries Point and form the bulk of the unskilled labor force. There are 16,600 residents in East Boston.
  • 1855-1905: Largest period of Canadian immigration; between 1915 and 1920 Canadian-born immigrants represent 20% of the East Boston population.
  • 1856: The Most Holy Redeemer Church is built on Maverick Street with a 200-foot spire. It is designed by Patrick C. Keeley and dedicated by Bishop Fenwick.
  • 1865: The census records 20,572 residents in East Boston.
  • 1867: City of Boston purchases Apple's Island for use as a gravel pit. The Island is renamed variously Susanna, Belle Isle, and lastly Breed's Island.
  • 1869: The East Boston Branch Library is established. It is the first municipally supported branch library in the United States.
  • 1870: A fire along the waterfront destroys many East Boston piers accelerating the demise of the wooden ship building industry.
  • 1875: The Boston, Revere Beach, and Lynn Railroad is founded. McKay closes his last shipyard in East Boston, which leads many skilled craftsmen to move to Back Bay or the new suburbs.
  • 1879: The first chartered yacht club in the Eastern United States, Jeffries Point Yacht Club, is founded.
  • 1880's: Two settlements, Good Will House on Webster Street and Trinity House on Meridian Street, help immigrants.
  • 1885-1915: Italians and Russian Jews immigrate into East Boston. The Italians come from the North End and from Italy; they move into Jeffries Hill at Cottage and Maverick Streets, spread to Chelsea Street, then move to the eastern slope of Eagle Hill, and finally the more affluent, usually second-generation, move to Orient heights (the former Breed's Hill). The Jews first replace the Irish in Jeffries Point then move to Porter and Chelsea Streets.
  • 1885: The population steadily increases to 29,280.
  • 1888: Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy is born at 151 Meridian Street in East Boston.
  • 1892: The First Synagogue is established and St. Mary's Church is founded on Jeffries Point.
  • 1894: Boston Land Company auctions Orient Heights land (open for settlement since 1880s) and earns $21,448.78 for north slope lots.
  • 1898: Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) designs Wood Island Park (now World War Memorial Park). The park includes a racetrack, tennis courts, a gymnasium, and a bathhouse.
  • Early 1900s: Italian immigrants began to settle in East Boston, becoming the major ethnic group in the neighborhood by 1915. There are also five Jewish temples in East Boston by 1900, including Temple Ohel Jacob on Paris Street.
  • 1900-1904: The first streetcar tunnel in America is dug under Boston Harbor.
  • 1901: East Boston High School built on Marion Street. It is later renamed Joseph H. Barnes School, after an East Boston native in the Civil War.
  • 1903: St. John's Church is built on Lexington Street.
  • 1905: Largest Jewish community in New England is located in East Boston, especially around Chelsea and Porter Streets.
  • 1908: Fire in Jeffries Hill leads much of the Jewish community to relocate to Chelsea. In the next twenty years, Jews proper and continue to move out of East Boston to Chelsea, and also to Roxbury or Dorchester.
  • 1914: Massachusetts Bible Society records East Boston as containing 68% Catholic, 19% Protestant, 11% Jewish, and 2% Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Chinese, or no church affiliation.
  • 1915: The census records 62,377 residents in East Boston.
  • 1922: A municipal health study describes the ethnic composition of East Boston: Italians live in the area bounded by Maverick Square and Maverick Street, the docks to Central Square, Boarder Street, Porter Street to Boston & Maine tracks; Italians intermingled with Jews and Portuguese between havre, Chelsea, Porter and Paris Streets; Irish, British, Americans, and Jewish in area bounded by Porter Street to railroad to Prescott Street to Day Square to Chelsea Creek; Irish and second-generation Italians in the more affluent area east of Prescott Street. Boston Municipal Airport is first built on Wood Island Park.
  • 1923: An airfield, later an airport, named after South Boston native and World War I Infantry Commander Edward L. Logan is begun with a runway near Jeffries Point on filled land.
  • 1925: The population of East Boston peaks at 64,069. Immigration quotas limit the number of new immigrants into the area.
  • 1926: Present East Boston High School on White Street built.
  • 1931-1934: The Sumner Tunnel, the first car tunnel in Boston, is constructed.
  • 1935: Suffolk Downs raceway is built. It closes in 1989.
  • 1946-48: Bird, Apple, and Governor's Islands are converted into Logan airport.
  • 1955: Orient Heights Public Housing project is built.
  • 1958-61: The Callahan Tunnel becomes the second car tunnel connecting downtown to Logan Airport.
  • 1959: Logan Airport, which had operated under various city and state jurisdictions, is run by the newly established Massachusetts Port Authority. There has been controversy for nearly fifty years about the Airport's expansion and the residential needs of East Boston residents.
  • 1968: Wood Island Park taken over and Neptune Road houses are bulldozed for additional Logan runways. Logan also constructs a new terminal. In October, Maverick Street mothers stage a parade and sit-in to change the truck routes through their community. By 1976, Logan Airport represents two-thirds of the land in East Boston.
  • 1970s and 1980s: Spanish speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Columbia, and Central America begin settling in the area.
  • 1990: The census indicates a significant growth in the percentage of minorities in East Boston over the last decade. More blacks, Asians, and Latinos moved into the area.
  • 1990s: Vietnamese begin settling in East Boston.

Further Reading

  • Casaburi, Victor F.,ed. Boston. A Colonial History of East Boston. Privately Printed, 1975.
  • East Boston. Boston 200 Neighborhood History Series. Boston: Boston 200 Corporation, 1976.
  • Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. East Boston. Dover, N.H.: Arcadia, 1997.
  • Sumner, William. History of East Boston. Boston: J.E. Tilton and Co., 1858.

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